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When Purchasing Software, Look from the Outside In, Not the Inside Out

By November 12, 2013Article

For 2014, one of the more intriguing ways to avoid shortsighted software purchases — especially at the enterprise level — is to change the way you view your business. 

The typical view, and the driving force behind making strategic software decisions, often boils down to one thing: your organization has a pain point that can no longer be overlooked. This is typically the impetus for change and makes a ton of sense. Why fix something that isn’t broken? 

I’m writing this while attending an event with loads of “thinkers” who mostly focus on anticipating where our world is headed from an innovation standpoint. They are thinking beyond just fixing what is broken to thinking about how we can revolutionize today’s tasks to build something better. How can we take the information we have, anticipate our needs for the future and elevate our organization to make it the best it can be? Looking through this lens offers new insight into the way we should purchase software by focusing on how can we drive business, empower employees, enhance the customer experience and more. 

The single most strategic software decision an organization will make is its choice of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) technology. ERP solutions are created to handle the core components of a business to ensure stability, comply with financial regulations, and streamline business processes, among other core company functions. Because there are so many tangible pain points addressed with core ERP functionality — including financial management, manufacturing, sales processing, human resources and performance management — executives tend to home in on “solving” the problems when choosing an ERP system and setting aside the “extraneous” pieces like customer service and field service for later on down the road. They see that the ERP system has modules that address these functions and put them on the project plan for implementation for two to five years out. 

The problem with this approach is that it not only puts service on the back burner, it puts it in the back seat. Unfortunately, this is all too common and has become ingrained in the attitudes of many companies. While many successful organizations give equal weight and forethought to purchasing ERP and service management solutions, others think of service as an add-on. 

To change the way you view your business, look beyond the typical bread-and-butter commoditized products or even the standard services you offer to support these products. Start thinking about all of the potential services you could offer, taking ideas from your own service experiences that delight and surprise you, and working backwards into your technology framework. 

Instead of looking at your purchase from the core ERP out, look at your purchase from the outside in: service first, then ERP. At a minimum, stretch your thinking to include all of those service ideas that seem impossible today, and assume that they can be made possible. 

This idea of intertwining fresh services into your environment will enable you to poise the organization for flexible growth and provide nimble ability for rapid change. To co-opt the idea from technology thinker Chris Anderson, it can help you build a “long tail” of revenue generation for your company. 

The single, most important piece of advice I can offer to avoid shortsighted software purchases is to start with services — not just your service group, customer service approach, field service or any conventional service practice. Look from the outside to discover inventive services that you can interlace into your plan for the future. Then when it’s time to invest in a software purchase, you can back into the core features you need to ensure success. 

Kris Brannock is executive vice president at Vertical Solutions, Inc., the developer of service management solutions. Kris blogs regularly about using service to build a business and can be reached at



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